The LOS ANGELES TIMES and BALTIMORE SUN report this morning that most of the remaining ESPN Zones will soon be “shut down.” Last year the Atlanta and Denver stores were closed. Next to be shuttered: Las Vegas, New York, D.C., Baltimore and Chicago.
An AEG source told me this morning that the only ESPN-themed restaurants to survive - for now - will be the the location in Anaheim and the downtown Los Angeles location.
The Anaheim store is owned and operated by a Disney subsidiary and is part of the Downtown Disney development. The ESPN Zone in L.A. is owned and operated by AEG and is the cornerstone property of AEG’s L.A. Live development - located just a few feet from Staples Center.
The closures are no surprise.
ESPN originally promoted the stores with individual Bristol personalities like Stuart Scott, Dan Patrick and Chris Berman. As I’ve written in the past, the network has subsequently gone away from promoting individuals and focusing more on the promotion of its relationships with the NFL, MLB and NBA.
That change of marketing focus and the downturn in the restaurant business the past 18 months spelled the demise of the ESPN Zones.
It what turned out to be foreshadowing of the the closures, the newest ESPN Zone, in the downtown Los Angeles L.A. Live development, was built to be considerably smaller than its chain restaurant counterparts. Looking back, that may have been an indication that the entire concept was being scaled back.
While the Anaheim and New York ESPN Zones in many ways resembled a Las Vegas-style sports book, the new L.A. location came off as nothing more than a garden-variety sports-themed restaurant.
The closure of the ESPN Zones around the country isn’t a reflection of the dissatisfaction of the sports media network. More a response to the economy and the fact that those stores really offered nothing that wasn’t being done better by competitors.